Money Isn’t Everything: How $70,000 Still Left me Unhappy

Money isn't everything

Money is crucial to live but they say that money can’t buy happiness. This idea of “money isn’t everything” is found on inspirational tumblr posts and can be hard to wrap your head around, especially in a capitalistic society that focuses so much on the car you drive, the home you own (super lucky if this is you in the Bay Area!), and the salary you make. Having said that, the point of this short and sweet post is to show you how my relationship with money has changed over the years and perhaps point out to you why it may not be as important as you think it is.

Working and Money

At 23 years old, I was making over $70,000 a year at a medical group in San Francisco. In hindsight, that might not seem like a lot of money, especially for a place like the Bay Area where a 2 bedroom apartment easily costs $4,000/month. However, when my previous job consisted of working for minimum wage as a medical assistant at a medical practice, 70k was more than I could fathom at the time.

What they don’t tell you is how fast $70k can disappear. That’s about $5,830 a month, where $2,000 goes to Uncle Sam in federal and state taxes, which leaves $3,830 for you. Then there’s rent (at least I was living at home but still gave my parents around 10% of post-tax income), food, drinks, entertainment, 401k contributions (10% of pre-tax income), and then pretty much you’re left with $750. Granted, I probably spent too much money going out, but at the time it seemed pretty normal because that’s what all my friends were doing too.


Sharon, myself, and some friends at a New Year’s Party in 2014

Going out Thursday, Friday, Saturday, day drinking on Sunday..all this seemed to be the norm. But it still left me unhappy. I felt like I was going out as a way to escape from the boredom and routine that my life had become. Maybe it’s because I felt like I was no longer learning in my job and was seeking something more meaningful.

how $70000 a year still left me unhappy

Realizing that Money Is Not Everything

Flash forward two years, and my friend Tess and I are hiking all day in the mountains of Chiang Mai, Thailand, playing under waterfalls, eating locally made noodles, and it was one of the happiest times of my life. Being outdoors, eating fresh food, and having a buddy to hike with was pretty much all that I need for a good time. However, having said that, I realize that being able to be in Chiang Mai in the first place and being able to pay for a hiking guide comes from a place of privilege. But the same feeling of happiness and peace holds true whether it’s hiking in my hometown or abroad.

how 70k a year still left me unhappy

It’s moments like these that lead me to encourage people to solo travel or travel in general, even if it means just getting in your car and going for a drive to a town that you’ve never been to. I guess when I travel, I’m searching again for moments like hiking in Chiang Mai, moments that allow for time to gain some perspective, like what I value and how I want to live my life.


To me, money is important in terms of being self-sufficient and covering basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter. Money is useful in terms of providing for a family and ensuring that your kids turn out to be good people. But other than that, money is just money. Once you cover your basic costs, how much value does it really add to your life? Especially when you consider what you give up to pursue making more of it, like time with your family and friends.

“Monetary success is not success. Career success is not success. Life, someone that loves you, giving to others, doing something that makes you feel complete and full. That is success. And it isn’t dependent on anyone else.” – James Avery

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    July 12, 2017 at 7:33 am

    Money IS everything unfortunately. I’m am tried of hearing this from people. You have to live with money. There is nothing wrong with that. If you don’t like your job, work for yourself.

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